Cork is a soft, warm, comfortable flooring material that is ecologically friendly, since it is harvested in a renewable fashion. It has become a popular choice for almost any interior application. A natural product, cork has a soft, light, sandy-colored surface that can be darkened, tinted, and stained in a variety of ways to offer additional design options.
Cork is harvested from the cork oak (Quercus suber), generally at plantations planted for commercial purposes. The cork is found in the outer bark of the tree, which is cut away every seven to 10 years and used in a variety of purposes, from wine corks to poster boards. Manufacture of flooring material generally involves using the cork waste remaining after wine corks and other products are made. This leftover cork is pulverized, boiled, mixed with resins, and pressed into sheets for use in flooring products and sheet goods. Cork flooring, therefore, is a very "green" product since it is made of post-industrial waste material.
There are many cork flooring products available, from glue-down tiles and rollout sheets to click-lock planks that "float" over the subfloor. The very popular plank form is a laminated product, featuring a base layer of compressed cork, a core layer of fiberboard, and a surface layer of top-quality cork.
Here are nine examples of how cork flooring can be used in homes.
01 of 09
Diagonal Tiles With Border
Cork works equally well in kitchens and living areas, making it a great choice for flooring that ties two rooms together. Here, dark 6-inch square cork tiles are laid diagonally over the main floor area, while a lighter accent border runs parallel to the walls and cabinetry. This creates visual interest both through the use of contrasting colors and the angled lines of the tiles.
Cork lends both visual warmth and literal warmth to a room, through its rich brownish-red color and its ability to insulate against thermal loss. This makes it a great choice for colder climates, where cork tiles are often used in the same way that ceramic tile is often used in warmer climates.Continue to 2 of 9 below.
02 of 09
Defining a Modern Space
Cork is versatile enough to fit both classic and contemporary styles. In this office lobby, natural cork has been used to complement a series of artistic decorative furnishings to create a sophisticated modern look. The main connecting flooring material features cork in its natural color, while a slightly darker shade of flooring delineates a central sitting area.
In a commercial space like this one, or in a residential high-use area, it is critical to keep cork floors clean and well-sealed.Continue to 3 of 9 below.
03 of 09
Dark Cork Kitchen Flooring
This kitchen has cork planks in a rich chestnut color that provides the perfect contrast against the pure white accents of the appliances and cabinet borders. The dark cabinet wood, as well as the stainless steel accessories, complement these colors, creating a sense of dynamic tension.
While cork is not as impervious to moisture and stains as ceramic tile or vinyl flooring, cork can be a good choice for kitchens, provided a good sealant layer is maintained to repel water and stains.Continue to 4 of 9 below.
04 of 09
Warmth in a Multi-Use Room
Durable but soft underfoot, cork is a great choice for rooms that see a variety of uses—where the flooring needs to perform and also be attractive. When this room is used as an exercise space, the resilience of cork has obvious advantages. And when used as a den, the cork echoes the rich earth tones found in the other features throughout the space, making for a very relaxing space.
A mottled white wallpaper provides visual texture, while features such as the contrasting brown curtains act as a counterpoint to the rest of the palette. The use of rich warm tones from floor to ceiling gives the space an inviting and comforting ambiance.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
Cork Plank Flooring in Mission-Style Room
Cork is available in plank form, allowing you to create a floor that is reminiscent of traditional hardwood while retaining all of the cushioning and soundproofing attributes of cork. In this sitting area with mission-style furniture, a cork plank floor has been installed in a room with a light blue wall palette accented by soft green accent pieces. The result is a simple yet attractive space that is charming without being overwhelming.
Cork flooring can be a logical choice in Mission or Craftsman style room designs, where the natural warm colors of a fully natural material fit perfectly.Continue to 6 of 9 below.
06 of 09
Living Room Elegance
In its darker hues, cork can provide the perfect counterpoint to a dramatic color palette. Here, the pea green wall becomes the focal point when set against the dark flooring and framed by the cream-colored couches on either side. This turns the attention of the viewer naturally toward the fireplace, with the coffee table blending with the rich hues of the floor and hearth.
Large cork tiles in dark colors are a perfect choice for formal rooms, thanks to the simplicity of appearance that lets furnishings and decor show more prominently.Continue to 7 of 9 below.
07 of 09
Clean, Simple, Zen
In its natural state, cork has a very clean and simple look that is perfectly paired with a minimalist decorating strategy. Less is more in a room influenced by Zen sensibilities, and in this example, the inherent beauty of the materials takes center stage. The overall effect is calming and uncluttered, marked more by subtlety and texture than color or design.Continue to 8 of 9 below.
08 of 09
Shabby Chic Kitchen
The earthy colors and matte finish of the plank-style cork cork flooring bring the right amount of casual warmth to this shabby chic kitchen. The natural texturing and color variation in the cork reinforce and echo the vibrancy of the granite countertops, but still provide a solid foundation for the room design.
The softness of cork underfoot makes it a great choice for kitchens, where you'll spend a lot of time on your feet. But remember to keep the flooring well-sealed to prevent stains and damage from moisture.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
Ideal in Bedrooms
If you like cork anywhere, you'll love it in a bedroom. It's softer and quieter than solid wood, yet is just as warm and inviting. Modern themes call for cork patterns and colors similar to bamboo or maple flooring, while a traditional scheme might be best served with colors reminiscent of cherry, walnut, or even wide-plank pine.